Since his appointment as Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes

Commission (EFCC) in 2003, the wispy Deputy Commissioner of Police has not spent one minute out of the limelight. As the face of the Federal

Government’s anti-corruption crusade, Ribadu has attracted generous praises for stirring the EFCC into a fierce battle against advanced fee fraudsters, perpetrators of cyber crimes, crooked bankers and other seamy business practices.

The commission’s powers are massive, attracting superlative descriptions such as ‘naked live wire’ and ‘monster.’ And it is in the exercise of these powers that Ribadu and EFCC have attracted criticisms of the same scale as commendations. Section 43 of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the commission to deal with any action considered as economic crime. Under Section 46, it explains economic crime as any form of non-violent criminal and illicit activity committed with the aim of earning wealth illegally. Critics of the EFCC accuse it of abusing its powers because it is the sole determinant of what constitutes financial crime. This also leads to the allegation that the EFCC is a tool the presidency uses to witch-hunt and muffle its critics and perceived enemies.

Ribadu himself may have helped in creating this perception. Last year,

Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, in a letter to President

Olusegun Obasanjo, alleged that the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade has not yielded the desired result because it is designed to witch-hunt and stifle political opponents. Kalu also alleged that President Obasanjo was corrupt. “There is indisputable evidence that all the major deals in the nation’s oil sector are being handled by you through one agent. What about the leakages and the fraud at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with particular reference to crude oil sales and the accruing commissions?” Kalu asked the president.

Obasanjo ordered the EFCC to conduct “a discreet investigation into the allegation and make its findings public.” At a press conference, Ribadu revealed that the President had forwarded Kalu’s letter to him and directed him to investigate. This was widely interpreted that it is the

President who approves what is to be probed.

Okey Ndibe, a columnist with The Guardian wrote that Ribadu and the

EFCC “appear too tethered to Aso Rock, constantly looking to the President for directives on whom to probe and prosecute and whom to let free.”

On account of this, Ndibe added, the EFCC ‘risks coming across as an extension of the presidency, a tool which a President notorious for his vindictiveness would, when he chooses, flagellate his opponents.”

Ndibe’s observations appear well-informed. Dr. Olusola Saraki, a friend of the President, and members of his family were responsible for the collapse of the Society Generale Bank in which customers, including soccer star, Austin JayJay Okocha, lost their deposits. Yet, Saraki has not been prosecuted despite two appearances at the EFCC. Chief Bode

George, National Vice Chairman (South) of the People’s Democratic Party

(PDP) and a supporter of President Obasanjo, has been indicted by a presidential probe panel of involvement in an N85 billion contract fraud at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). George is a former Chairman of the NPA Board. Despite his indictment, he has not been prosecuted. Julius Makanjuola, a cousin of the President and former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, was accused of a N420 million fraud. But the Federal Government entered a nolle prosequi case in his favour.

Evidence that the EFCC may turn a worse tool of keeping critics on a leash was yielded in Washington, USA, last Monday.

That day, Ribadu told the US House of Representatives Sub-Committee on

Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations that the EFCC is already probing the bribe-for-vote scandal in the National Assembly during the aborted third term debate. Senators who supported the third term bid were alleged to have received N50 million each, while House of Representatives members got N40million. Ribadu also told the  American lawmakers that the EFCC is determined to find those who got money, with a view to preventing them from using such money to influence the 2007 elections. “We are making progress, tracking allegations that might have impact on next year’s presidential election campaign,” he said.

Analysts contend that this represents another attempt to deal with those who received money and failed to support the third term project. Will Ribadu and the EFCC break free of the presidency and become non-selective in its pursuit of perpertrators of financial crimes? The jury is out.

Sunday Ehindero

Nigerians are yet to see the positive changes promised by Mr. Sunday Ehindero when he was appointed acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP) in 2005. On appointment, Ehindero, who has since been confirmed and re-appointed substantive IGP, unveiled a 10-point agenda which listed effective crime control, conflict prevention and resolution and contribution to quick justice delivery as some of its areas of focus. But up to now, the public perception of the police remains the same. Under Ehindero, the Nigerian Police Force has bungled the investigation into the death of Chief Alaba Joseph, President of Mobitel Limited. A coroner’s inquest into Joseph’s death issued a verdict that suggested that the deceased died in extra-judicial circumstances when policemen accompanied a receiver/manager to take over Mobitel.

But Ehindero rejected the verdict, branding it ill-motivated and aimed at ridiculing the Force.

Before then, on 8 June 2005, five young men and one woman of Igbo stock were killed by policemen attached to Abuja’s Apo Police Station. Their corpses were hurriedly buried by officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board.

The public, however, suspected foul play and alleged that the six persons were murdered by the police. Yet, Emmanuel Adebayo, then Police

Commissioner of the Federal Capital Territory, insisted that the deceased were robbers shot while returning from an operation. The cat was later let out of the bag when a Federal Government panel of inquiry, helped by testimonies of policemen, revealed that the deceased were not robbers, but traders killed without justification.

With a traditionally unreliable police and controlled by the Federal

Government, there are fears that the Force will again be deployed to illegal use in muzzling dissent and rigging of elections. The retention of Ehindero in office has  spawned a law suit. Last month, Cletus Ezerebo, a serving Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to nullify the IGP’s appointment. Joined in the suit are President Obasanjo, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Chief Bayo Ojo; the Police Council, Nigeria Police Force and the Police Service Commission. Ezerebo argued that Ehindero should have left office the Force on 20 March, having reached the mandatory retirement age. He is asking the court to declare his continued stay in office illegal. He is also seeking a declaration that it is unlawful for an IGP to be appointed and re-appointed or re-engaged by virtue of Section of 215 (1) and 216 of the 1999 Constitution. Ezerebo is also asking the court to declare that the IGP cannot be re-engaged on the same salary grade equivalent to that on which he retired on 20 March. The case has not been determined. Analysts, however, see Ehindero’s retention as President Obasanjo’s ploy to use him, illegally, in the next elections.

 

Colonel Kayode Are

The Director-General of the State Security Service is everything, but a known face. However, the agency he heads is, traditionally, one of the most dreaded. This is because it is widely perceived as the weapon of oppression against government’s critics. During the military era, it acquired notoriety for illegal arrests, detention and even murders.

Though under Are, the agency has not been as virulent, there are signs that there could be a relapse into the military era.

In the second week of March, Are, personally, led SSS operatives to disrupt the meeting of Movement 2007, a coalition against Obasanjo’s tenure-extension plot. The meeting, which was due to hold at the Abuja

Sheraton Hotel, had to be moved to the official lodge of Niger State Governor, Abdulkadir Kure, in Abuja.

On 20 March, the home Alhaji Isa Lawal Kaita, a Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State was invaded at about 12:30 a.m. by SSS officials. The SSS officials demanded that he followed them to Abuja. Apparently scared of the reputation of the SSS, Kaita declined until 6a.m.

The aged politician’s invitation was provoked by his membership of the

ACD, which is fiercely opposed to President Obasanjo’s tenure-elongation campaign. Also, last year, SSS operatives raided the offices of Insider Weekly, a Lagos-based magazine which is very critical of President

Obasanjo, carting away computers and cash. They also attempted, unsuccessfully, to arrest the magazine’s editors.

In September 2004, Chief Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, presidential candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 election, was invited for questioning over his public statements supporting the agitation for a Biafran state. But Ojukwu rejected the invitation, insisting that a one-way flight ticket to Abuja indicated that there was a plot to detain him. Ojukwu challenged the agency’s authority to invite him at the Enugu High Court, which ruled that he be left alone.

But the SSS secured relief at the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, which set aside the decision of the Enugu High Court which dismissed the notice of preliminary objection filed by the SSS.    The Appeal Court ruled that the Enugu High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit Ojukwu instituted. Ojukwu is already filing papers to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court.

Given his loyalty to President Obasanjo, which ensured that he was often used to usurp some of the functions of the former national security adviser, it is believed that Are and the SSS could be overly used in the coming months to the utter discomfort of opponents of the ruling PDP.

 

Justice Alfa Modibbo Belgore

Recently appointed Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alfa

Belgore and the whole of the nation’s judiciary will come under intense scrutiny in the coming months. For many Nigerians and observers of the country’s evolving democracy, the next general elections will be a critical phase in the life of Nigeria. It is because of this that the role of the judiciary is, in a democracy, as important as food is to life.  However, there are doubts that the Nigerian judiciary can be an impartial and incorruptible arbiter of conflicts, particularly where the government is involved.

In the Bola Ige murder trial, Justice Moshood Abass withdrew from the case, citing pressure from unexpected quarters. According to him, “since I made the order of remand of the accused person, and up till the last 10 minutes before I sat this morning, I have been under pressure and threat from many quarters, urging me to arrive at a particular decision even before I listen to the address of the counsel.”

Given the decadence in the judiciary, Justice Belgore will need to restore confidence in the system. A Herculean task? Certainly.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Iwu Can't Be Trusted

Ademola Adegbamigbe

The success or otherwise of the 2007 election depends on Professor

Maurice Iwu, the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman. Can Nigerians depend on him?

The level of distrust that the National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, are held by the public came to the fore on Monday 29 May 2006 at the Le Meridien Hotel, Abuja, at a press conference where Iwu planned to keep Nigerians posted on the goings-on within the commission.

After the INEC chairman presented his address, it was time for the question and answer session, moderated by Andy Ezeani, Iwu’s chief press secretary. One after the other, journalists threw their posers, which the

INEC boss either tackled or diplomatically avoided like a deadly microbe. It was, however, when Alexis Anielo, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) chairman who, like other politicans, was present, asked his own question that trouble started. Anielo, apart from accusing Iwu and his officials of failing to recognise his presence at the gathering, took exception to the INEC boss’ submission on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Anielo said: “Though you said in your speech that INEC, ‘because of an apparent opposition of the National Assembly to EVM, is not insisting on using it in the 2007 election,’ I am apprehensive about the sentence that follows. You said, Mr. Chairman, that with ‘an eye on the future though, the commission will still try and test out the machines with a view to establishing their value.’ This is a round-about way of trying to smuggle back the condemned AVM in 2007. ACD will oppose it with all its energy.”

In his reply, Professor Iwu went ballistic. He illustrated his point with an Indian parable: A boy was effortlessly pulling an adult elephant with a small rope. An adult tourist asked the boy what his secret was.

“How can you, a small brat, pull this large beast in such a way?” The boy revealed that when the elephant was young, his family used to tie it to a big tree with a rope, such that when it struggled, it was held tight. Since then, the idea that the elephant should not struggle with any rope has been etched in its prodigious memory.

Iwu said the rope symbolises the suspicion of the electoral body and its chairman, registered permanently in the consciousness of politicians.

That angst is, as those who were present observed, worse now that the

2007 elections are approaching. If Iwu felt that Anielo and Nigerians are apprehensive, analysts believe that they have their reasons. These stem from the difficulty in his acting independent of the executive, the manner of Iwu’s appointment, those who nominated him, his somersaults in Anambra State, attempt to force the Electronic Voting Machine on Nigerians and the role he played in the disputed House of Representatives and Senate seats. Others are his meddlesomeness in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the Buhari case and other matters.

All these fly against the ideals for which INEC was set up. The commission was established in accordance with Section 153(f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The functions of the Commission, as stipulated in Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution are to:

Organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation; register political parties in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and an Act of the National Assembly.

– Monitor the organisation and operations of the political parties, including their finances;

– Arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information.

– Conduct the registration of persons qualified to vote as well as prepare, maintain and revise the register of voters for the purpose of any election under the Constitution.

– Monitor political campaigns and provide rules and regulations, which shall govern the political parties, ensure that all Electoral Commissioners, Electoral and Returning Officers take and subscribe to the oath of office prescribed by law. The electoral body will delegate any of its powers to any Resident Electoral Commissioner and carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly.

The Nature of Iwu’s Appointment Affects His Independence

The manner of Iwu’s appointment, according to Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, was unconstitutional. He made this observation on 1 June 2005 when the Senate was to ratify the INEC boss’ appointment. “The 1999 Constitution,” in the words of Afikuyomi, “makes it mandatory for the President to consult with the Council of State before appointing the Chairman of  INEC. “My investigation showed that the presidency single-handedly chose Iwu. I don’t think it is right for us to confirm Iwu. If we do, we shall be endangering our nascent democracy.”

What helped to exacerbate this suspicion is that Iwu, according to sources, was nominated by the Uba brothers of Anambra State. “This accounts for his disobedience of court orders, refusal to award a certificate of return to Dr. Christian Okeke, as directed by the Appeal court,” an angry Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member told TheNEWS. Okeke was the candidate fielded by the PDP in the 2003 House of Representatives election for the Idemili North and South Federal constituency, while Chris

Uba, ‘‘the godfather in Anambra politics,’’ nominated Jerry Ugokwe. INEC, however, declared Ugokwe (Uba’s nominee) winner, a result which Okeke challenged at the National Assembly Election Tribunal.

The tribunal annulled the victory of Ugokwe, who challenged the verdict at the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division on 5 May 2005. The court upheld the tribunal’s position. Ugokwe dragged the matter further to the ECOWAS Court, Abuja, presided over by  Justice Donli Hanson. The court struck out the case because it lacked the jurisdiction to hear it.

Yet, INEC refused to give Okeke his certificate of return, a situation which made Alhaji Bello Masari, the House of Representatives Speaker, to issue INEC with a 14-day ultimatum to give the real winner the documents.

Okeke dragged Iwu to the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division on 31 October  2005. The court asked the INEC chairman: “You are hereby required to attend the court on the first mentioned day to show cause why an order for your committal should not be made.”

The matter was so serious that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Bayo Ojo, sent a letter to Iwu on 18 November 2005, requesting Iwu to “please issue the certificate of return to Dr.

Christian Okeke.”

In the Senate, Uba’s boys who were fraudulently elected were, after the tribunal’s verdict, shown the way out. That is why Senator I. Abana was replaced by Senator Ben Obi while Senator Joy Emordi replaced Senator Emmanuel Anosike.  On these matters, Iwu told TheNEWS (see interview) that as soon as INEC knew that the battle was becoming endless, it “signed Okeke’s certificate of return and he has since joined his colleagues at the lower chamber of the National Assembly.”


 

The Anambra Saga

Another cause for worry is INEC’s volte face in the Anambra  governorship election, which critics have linked to the Uba/Obasanjo influence. For as long as the war between former Governor Chris Ngige (Uba’s estranged godson) and Peter Obi, his APGA challenger lasted, INEC supported  Obi.

Fortunately for Obi, the Anambra Election Petitions Tribunal awarded him victory. As soon as Uba’s bogeyman, Ngige, was out of the way, INEC went into its bag of tricks and headed for the chambers of Dr. O. Babalakin, who filed a cross appeal against the tribunal’s verdict, praying that the 19 April 2003 governorship election be cancelled and another election conducted. “The irregularities were substantial and they sufficiently made the election invalid on the grounds that it did not follow the provisions and principles of the Electoral Act 2002,” Babalakin submitted on behalf of INEC.

Babalakin asked the court to set aside the declaration contained in the judgement of the Governorship and Legislative House Election Tribunal that Peter Obi was validly and duly elected and returned as the Governor of Anambra State, having scored/polled the highest/majority of lawful votes cast.” INEC also sought an order nullifying or invalidating the governorship election on the grounds of non-compliance with Section 179 of the constitution and an order that a fresh election be held or conducted.

INEC’s counsel maintained that Obi did not meet the requirement of Section 179(2) of the constitution. He added that although the tribunal found that he scored at least one quarter of the votes cast in 15 councils, on evaluation of the evidence, there were at least two of the 15 councils where Obi did not score the required one quarter of all the votes. “To satisfy section 179(2) of the constitution, Obi needed to score at least one quarter of the votes cast in each of at least 14 local government areas of the state and the decision of the learned judge of the tribunal was against the weight of the evidence.”

Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, counsel to Obi, reacted that INEC’s appeal was unheard of and absurd. “A party that went to court to declare that their results were unassailable is now in court saying they are not. I think the first thing they ought to do is to institute an internal investigation and find out the culprits... I can detect a glaring case of inconsistency and people can’t subscribe to diametrically opposed positions. It is totally absurd.”

Iwu, however, told TheNEWS: “The Anambra case was just a bad case of the 36 states. For me, it was a pass mark for Nigeria because there was confusion and long litigation only in Anambra governorship election.

Chris Ngige did not win election. It is only in Nigeria that somebody who rigged election would be bold and talk as if he had the mandate of the people.’’

Iwu’s critics are ready to point to his “reversal of fundamental principles of granting political parties recognition.” After becoming chairman, Iwu recognised the Victor Umeh faction of APGA. Umeh is an acolyte of Peter Obi who was giving Ngige hell. Ngige was said to be close to

Chekwas Okorie, another factional leader of the party. In this case, as watchers of Anambra politics put it, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

 

Plateau Recall Process (Lalong And Mantu)

Plateau State, critics posit, is another case of how Iwu can be an interested party in a dispute. In this matter, the hand of Obasanjo whose relationship with Governor Joshua Dariye has not been cordial was visible. Dariye was arrested in London for alleged money laundering but escaped to Nigeria where he has immunity against prosecution. To be able to prosecute the governor, he had to be impeached, a process which is the responsibility of the Plateau State legislature, chaired by the Speaker, Solomon Lalong. Unlike Bayelsa State where the state assembly left former Governor Dieprieye Alamieyeseigha helpless like a beached whale, the Plateau legislature refused to impeach Dariye. For this, Solomon Lalong had to go, through a recall, constitutionally preceded by a plebiscite.

But in August 2005, the Jos High Court, in a ruling, restrained INEC from conducting the referendum, pending the determination of the suit. Iwu, however, went ahead to conduct the referendum on 28 August last year. Fortunately for Lalong, he polled 74 per cent of the total 41,859 votes to defeat those who wanted to kick him out. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) condemned INEC for conducting the plebiscite, despite the court order. A political analyst, Basirat Abbass, condemned the INEC boss: “Iwu’s brazen flouting of court order was because the Presidency had more than a passing interest in the failed move to recall Lalong from the Plateau State legislature. Lalong is a supporter of Governor Dariye whom the presidency is desperate to remove from office by all means. In other words, Lalong is guilty by association and the main target in the recall plot was actually Dariye.”

Critics charged that the same Iwu who, in spite of a court injunction conducted a referendum for the recall of Lalong, refused to do the same in the recall process of Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, apostle of Obasanjo’s third term. On 14 December 2005, the Plateau Central Senatorial District, led by Chief Joseph Din, a businessman, submitted a petition to INEC seeking Mantu’s recall. His petition was accompanied with 208,000 signatures and thumbprints. Din’s reason was that Mantu allegedly engaged in “anti-people activities.” When Iwu received the document, he promised to complete the recall process within the constitutionally stipulated 90 days. This is in accordance with Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution, requiring that the recall of a National Assembly member should be completed within 90 days after INEC has received a petition.

When INEC fixed the verification of signatures for 4 March 2006, a Federal High Court in Jos ruled against the move. But when the court vacated the order on 15 March, it asked INEC to fix another date. The matter dragged on till the collapse of the third term bid.

 

The Buhari/Obasanjo Case

In the case involving President Obasanjo and General Muhammadu Buhari, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate in the 2003 election, INEC showed its bias when it failed to present certain facts/instances of electoral malpractices as demanded by the Court of Appeal. This also brings to mind the Appeal Court judgement read by Justice S.A. Nsofor on the Obasanjo/Buhari case: “I find that the substantial non-compliance with the mandatory electoral law amounts to no election. I also find that there was violence perpetrated by President Obasanjo and INEC. In Adamawa State, there was massive rigging, malpractice and violence using law enforcement agencies.”

The justice said deployment of soldiers and police was to intimidate innocent electorate as alleged by the petitioners (Maj. Gen. Buhari and ANPP). ‘‘If not, why is it that no PDP member was killed or shot? Six innocent Nigerians were shot dead in police station. Others were wounded.

All were ANPP members. Why is it that the law enforcement agencies turned their eyes from the various atrocities inflicted on innocent Nigerians by the army and the police?... Why is it that INEC did nothing and said nothing about it too?...  May Nigeria never and never again see a black Saturday like April 19, 2003.’’

 

Lack Of Financial Autonomy

He who pays the piper, as the saying goes, calls the tune. This, in the view of critics exposes INEC to manipulation, since it is financed by the Executive which, if it likes, can turn off the monetary faucet. In other words, the ruling PDP can use INEC as it pleases.

Right now, INEC still relies on the presidency for funds. Last month, the commission had not received up to 10 per cent of its 2006 approved budget, a situation that delayed the electoral pilot schemes that INEC ought to have embarked upon. Last month, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora was so worried that he called on the upper legislative chamber to direct its committee on INEC “to assess the level of funding INEC has enjoyed and determine whether same is adequate and in accordance with the

Appropriation Act 2002 and send to the Senate in two weeks.” But his idea was not accepted. INEC’s financial problem is, according to observers, “an attempt to, alongside the delay in passing the Electoral Act, weaken and make its manipulation easy.”

Iwu himself told TheNEWS exclusively that “funding is not the problem per se but the release of funds.”

Alhaji Balarabe Musa, expressing fear that Nigeria may be subjected to the experience of 2003 again by this government, asked: “Tell me, why would government deliberately refuse to release money to INEC to carry out voters’ register update? It is not that the money is not there.

This was the same thing they did in 2003. We have been shouting that

INEC should be made to have financial autonomy. Election is just a few months away and they are still talking about having money to create public awareness, update voters’ register, etc. It is bad, it is a ploy, it is deliberate.”

Also, Chief Victor Umeh, acting National Chairman of All Progressives

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